Remembering Iowa’s Tuskegee Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katelyn Sprott
  • 132d Wing Public Affairs

*This article was originally published in 2004, all information in the article was current as of the year of its publishing.                

The Fort Des Moines Memorial Park and Education Center of Des Moines, Iowa known as “America’s Greatest Memorial to Black and Female Soldiers” honored the first black military pilots with a memorial at the new main entrance of the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Fighter Wing on 9 November 2002. A P-51 replica was dedicated at the ceremony in the West Hangar. The P-51 was completely assembled, fabricated and painted by the 132FW Fabrication personnel to resemble an exact version of the P-51 aircrafts that the Tuskegee Airman flew during World War II.

All seven living Iowa Tuskegee Airmen of the 12 who served in the famed all-black 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group and 477th Bombardment Group from 1941-1945 during WWII attended the festivities.

The Iowa Tuskegee Airmen include two of the most notable: Des Moines native Luther H. Smith who flew 133 combat missions before becoming a prisoner of war in 1944. Smith was one of seven veterans selected by United States President William Clinton to accompany him to Europe for the 50th Anniversary of WWII. The award winning 1995 HBO movie “The Tuskegee Airmen” was based on the life of Ottumwa native Robert W. Williams.  

The Iowa Airmen 1941-1945


William V. Bibb                  Ottumwa

James E. Bowman            Des Moines

Russell L. Collins                Cedar Rapids

Maurice V. Esters             Webster City

Joseph P. Gomer              Iowa Falls

Robert L. Martin               Dubuque

George R. Miller                Des Moines

Clarence A. Oliphant       Council Bluffs

Robert M. Parkey             Des Moines

Luther H. Smith                 Des Moines

Thurman E. Spriggs          Des Moines

Robert W. Williams         Ottumwa


* As of 2021 all Iowa Tuskegee Airmen are deceased